back to list

What is your major malfunction?

Banes at 12:00AM, May 2, 2024

Damaged Heroes

A well written, standard Protagonist will generally have some flaws, starting out as an underdog of some kind, with lessons to learn and improvements to make over the course of the story.

Granted, some heroes are, well, just heroes, who are pretty much who they need to be from the beginning. I've talked about these “white hats” before… Superman is the ultimate paragon of hope, inspiration and humanity.

…er…or he was at one time, at least.

I have to admit, though, that I have a great interest in damaged protagonists. And not the regular types who are just naive, or lazy or misguided. But heroes with big problems.

You know, maybe I should change this to ‘damaged HEROES’. A Protagonist can be quite villainous. I think of the guy in “The Player”. The “HERO” is someone we're rooting for, even though they're messed up. Enh, I'm not sure where the line is on this offhand. Let's keep it simple for this discussion.

Obviously these heroes are plenty popular with many audiences; in the past few years damaged heroes have appeared more and more in media, and with great success. Walter White and Saul Goodman had serious, serious issues. Tony Soprano was very much a criminal and not someone we'd want to be anywhere close to, outside of watching him on the TeeVee.

In the comedic world, the sociopaths of Arrested Development and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia have cranked the Seinfeld-type selfishness up to eleven! Not to mention the comedic misanthropy of Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm. And your run-of-the-mill superficial, selfless dopes that followed in the wake of Seinfeld, The Simpsons, and so on.

In the world of comics, of course, these sorts of characters are legion. Batman is a big one, especially starting with the classic “Dark Knight Returns” graphic novel, and the “Watchmen” series by Alan Moore, which examined the twisted psyches of costumed heroes.

It's not for everyone, but a Woody Allen movie called “Deconstructing Harry” might have been the first instance where I felt emotionally invested in a pretty scuzzy protagonist.

Harry Block is a writer who is hated by just about everyone he knows, after writing stories based on many of them. The movie contains a little road trip story, but takes many side trips into Harry's mind and dramatizes his short stories. The main character in “The Player” - well, I won't spoil, and I don't even remember it really well, but that guy was not exactly warm and cuddly.

There's also Barry from “Barry” and Dexter from “Dexter”, and the hateable wackjob Joe from “You”. I include him here even though I came to hate that guy so much. Quite the achievement - I didn't hate the serial killers but the only way I'll watch “You” again is if I hear Joe has a satisfying death scene that humiliates him.

Okay, I'm exaggerating there.

A little.

These kinds of characters fit in well in certain genres - the dark, noir mystery worlds in certain detective stories, or dystopian Sci Fi…these folks are right at home there, and it makes sense that people would be like that in those kinds of environments.

I do think the dark, damaged, edgy hero has been overdone lately, as a lazy way to try and make something “cool”. Doesn't always work!

What do you think? Are the criminals, scumbags and sociopaths more interesting? More realistic? Or is this a trend you don't care for? Do characters need to be mostly good, or just have a little slice of relatability for you to care about them?

have a good one!


Don’t forget you can now advertise on DrunkDuck for just $2 in whichever ad spot you like! The money goes straight into running the site. Want to know more? Click this link here! Or, if you want to help us keep the lights on you can sponsor us on Patreon. Every bit helps us!

Special thanks to our patrons!!

Justnopoint - Banes - RMccool - Abt_Nihil - Gunwallace - PaulEberhardt - Emma_Clare - FunctionCreep - SinJinsoku - Smkinoshita - jerrie - Chickfighter - Andreas_Helixfinger - Tantz_Aerine - Genejoke - Davey Do - Gullas - Roma - NanoCritters - Teh Andeh - Peipei - Digital_Genesis - Hushicho - Palouka - cheeko - Paneltastic - L.C.Stein - dpat57 - Bravo1102 - The Jagged - LoliGen - OrcGirl - Miss Judged - Fallopiancrusader - arborcides - ChipperChartreuse - Mogtrost - InkyMoondrop - Jgib99 - Hirokari - Orgivemedeath Ind - Mks Monsters - GregJ - HawkandFloAdventures - Soushiyo - JohnCelestri- Tottycomics - Casscade - Salexander



dragonsong12 at 7:28PM, May 2, 2024

All types of characters need to be acceptable in story telling. Characters are the most interesting part to me and only having a few stock types to choose from sounds horribly dull. I want everything - from perfect angels to vile devils and every single step in between. Also - from a writing perspective - "overdone" is just not something I'd ever consider. If a character type is right for the story, then they're in. What other people do doesn't really have an impact on my writing. ....Really the only thing that bothers me are situations where the tone the narrative seems to be going for and the way the character is portrayed don't match. Say a character that is clearly set up to be a good guy, but isn't doing any good things - or a character clearly set up to be a bad guy whose "evil" is hard to buy into. Of course, those sorts of judgments are subjective, and a clever writer can play with that, so even that's not off limits.

Jason Moon at 3:22PM, May 2, 2024

Yeah Joe from "You" was such a nasty character. It really upset me in the end how he won and got away with everything. And not only that but he pawned everything off on that stupid little girl who was trying to expose him. I've never seen a show where the character is so crazy evil and brilliant in getting away with it all. It actually upset me and left me with an empty feeling when it was over. I actually never would have ever watched that kind of show either but my friend told me to watch "You" because I reminded him of "Joe" in the way of how I become obsessive about certain things. But that guy was wacko!

jerrie at 1:28PM, May 2, 2024

for ME, the best example of the flawed protagonist was the Movie ''To Live and Die in LA.'' about a Secret Service agent, whose partner was killed by a counterfeiter.He was RUTHLESS in catcher the murderer, to the point that HE was committing illegal acts HIMSELF, to catch him. really influenced my own writing, when I saw that movie.

PaulEberhardt at 8:31AM, May 2, 2024

It's kind of interesting how in all these examples the main characters' flaws are designed to help establish the setting, tone and atmosphere of the whole story in a subtle way. Btw. the typical turn-off for me is overemphasising that it's the rotten world this or that character lives in shaped and twisted him to acquire his flaws, else he/she would be an angel. Humans never have just one side to them, and blaming the surroundings alone is denying that we can actively shape our lives. Not that I begrudged anyone their pipe dreams who'd like to avoid self-responsibility at all costs. They might be a psychological necessity in some cases. I just prefer those many possible and often rather random flaws protagonists develop all on their own by being themselves.

PaulEberhardt at 8:20AM, May 2, 2024

This is exactly where the gruff, dishevelled, alcoholic loner detective trope comes from. I love flawed heroes, and like mks_monsters I think they're a must if you want any kind of growth - but beware of the trope trap! In some genres, certain kinds of flaws have been established so well, they might get boring. There's our typical spaghetti Western hero who is the hero just by default, being marginally more sympatico than the villains, highlighting the harsh life at the frontier. There's the last surviving girl in a horror movie who used to be a shy, quiet plain Jane before the monster mayhem started. Ok, so some would say that's just to highlight her innocence and therefore purity, but if you ask me, it might as well be social anxiety and low self-esteem, the evil terrors from the abyss helping her overcome it, thus accidentally being good for something this once 😉. We all know these stock characters and if played too straight it's either an old classic, or we'll just roll our eyes.

mks_monsters at 7:34AM, May 2, 2024

I think a hero who is imperfect in general ought to be a given because no one is perfect. Though I like heroes who grow and get stronger throughout the journey while always having been good people or at the very least, have good in them to begin with. When it comes to criminal protagonists, I like it when the MC undergoes redemption the right way, but that's just me.

bravo1102 at 3:33AM, May 2, 2024

Scary thing is there are letters and journals that tell the story that Good tells. It really happened. I've been playing with ideas to do a comic telling a similar story. There's also the ending with the disillusionment that grows in many as the war goes on.

InkyMoondrop at 12:29AM, May 2, 2024

What counts as a major flaw is usually determined by the current standards in society I suppose. It's how you could've watch Friends during the 90s and find Ross Geller to be an overall okay loser with many redeeming qualities, but now all you hear is how he's bigoted, creepy, etc, so "the worst". I guess you meant anti-heroes. Perhaps the most notable one would be Alex DeLarge from A Clockwork Orange, unless we choose to see him as a villain turned victim. I love anti-heroes who make me question my own moral values. This reminds me I watched Good, a National Theatre Live production with David Tennant in the main role, he plays a weak-willed average Joe at the rise of the Nazi party and the play follows through how his fear of admitting that his life getting out of hand compells him to rationalize everything to the point of actively contributing to the holocaust. It was a depressing watch, mainly because it's scary how simple denial can make people head down paths like this any day.

bravo1102 at 12:24AM, May 2, 2024

Having a relatable scumbag as the hero has made it easier for a lot of writers. They no longer have to imagine someone they've never met and are free to cast themselves as the hero. (Larry David and Seinfeld for example)

Forgot Password
©2011 WOWIO, Inc. All Rights Reserved Mastodon